How are insurers doing in terms of providing the kind of digital experience customers want?
Expectations of good digital customer engagement tend to ride pretty high with consumers, and the insurance industry is no exception. Our research, which looked at consumers from the U.K, the U.S., Italy, Germany, France, Mexico and Brazil, showed that consumers had high expectations that they would get a good digital experience. When it comes to delivering against that expectation, at an industry level it’s pretty poor. When you drill down and start looking at different segments, some are better than others.

Where is the insurance industry doing well?
When it comes to direct markets, where there is a high degree of sales direct to consumer, insurers can deliver a great digital service. When you come back and look at the intermediated end of the marketplace—where you get an agent involved and it’s a very personal relationship—generally the need for digital starts going away.

Most insurers will service the search part of the value chain pretty well, when consumers are looking for information and advice around products. A few are starting to really push the mobile channel, but generally, that’s quite low.

When you get to the transaction side of things, digital service can change quite dramatically between insurers. Claims processes tend to be serviced pretty well. General policy servicing is OK too. In new business, it depends on which market you’re in. If you’re in the life market, it’s pretty poor from the transaction side of things. In the retail personal lines, it can be pretty good.

Do customers still want the personal touch?
It is essential. The consumer part of our research showed that, even though digital expectations are quite high, when it comes to more complex transactions, they expect a high degree of human touch. That makes sense. These are generally infrequent transactions.

For simple transactions, simple changes of addresses and things like that, generally the digital expectations are high. They want to be able to do it online as much as possible. As soon as it comes to a commitment, a transaction or a complex claims event, that’s the point at which they lack confidence or sufficient information to feel comfortable enough to make the transaction themselves. They may do part of the journey online, but they won’t do it all.

How do insurers and agents deal with that?
The smarter insurers are starting to design more specifically around a customer journey—thinking about the customer and putting the product second. It’s more a case of how to use technology to support the high-value conversations you know you will want to have. The key thing is the switch from thinking of digital as being a route to strip out costs as opposed to really engaging the customer.